Curtis Killorn, an artist in Salida, Colo., likes his canvases au naturel. He finds and paints trees. Dead ones. Snags. The kind that a property owner might cut down. Or a woodpecker inhabit. Or a photographer capture on film. Or a hiker admire.
I ran a gamut of emotions as I went through the pictures, read the story, and perused the comments. Initially I thought the trees were beautiful; their bold, gradient colors took thought and a deft hand. And they brightened what might otherwise be considered a rather dull vista of scrub and boulders. In some of the photos, they make a bright frame for the little town of Salida.
But you soon ask yourself, Whose trees are those? On whose land? Did he ask permission to do that? Turns out he didn’t ask permission in the beginning. And he was fined for painting a tree that was on federal land, although he never had to pay.
Being the conservationist that I am, I soon concluded that, no, as pretty as they are on their own, I don’t want those trees appearing in the landscape when I’m out enjoying nature and her art. I like my trees as nature painted them with wind and rain, heat and cold. If a private landowner or the city of Salida give him permission, fine. Public art exists in many American cities. But on public land without permission, no. In national forests and parks, absolutely not.
Killorn’s own website hints at a better approach, which one reader elaborated on. Buy or salvage a few interesting trees, paint them as you see fit, and then indulge in “flash art.” Set them up surreptitiously to surprise and hopefully delight the public, then remove them to strike again another day. Or at the request of the city, create permanent displays. No defacement of naturally standing trees, no issues of whose land or trees are involved. Art lovers get their art. And nature remains undisturbed.